How rituals help dating couples decide relationship future
Rituals such as those centred around holidays and other celebrations play an important part in human relationships, say researchers, adding that when dating couples engage in rituals together they learn more about each other.
According to the study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, those experiences can serve as diagnostic tools of where the relationship is going.
"Rituals have the power to bond individuals and give us a preview into family life and couple life. We found they help magnify normative relationship experiences," said study author Chris Maniotes from the University of Illinois, Urbana in the US.
According to the researchers, rituals are experiences that are shared with others, and they impact communication between individuals.
While rituals are typically celebrations such as holidays, they can also be idiosyncratic events a couple creates, such as Friday movie night.
Most rituals are recurring events, though some (such as rites of passage) occur just once in a person's life.
Rituals have elements of routine, but they have symbolic meaning that goes beyond routine interaction.
"Rituals provide a unique time to review one's partner and relationship; you get to see a host of behaviours and interactions that might normally be obscured," Maniotes noted.
"Some of the ways rituals affected commitment to wed with these couples was by altering their view of their partner, giving them a new perspective," Maniotes explained.
Th research team analysed in-depth interviews with 48 individuals (24 couples) in the US Southwest region.
They were randomly selected from a larger study examining commitment to wed in heterosexual dating couples over a period of nine months.
For this study, the researchers looked at the impact of rituals.
They found commitment to wed could increase or decrease, depending on the nature of the interaction.
Rituals can reinforce bonds and strengthen commitment, but they can also showcase conflict areas and make people less likely to see the relationship heading towards marriage.
For example, holiday celebrations involving rituals could highlight interactions with extended family and provide a window into how people navigate through conflict.
"Rituals seem to really play a role in pausing and slowing down individuals, helping them take a better look at their relationship. They help them see, 'this is who we are as a couple; this is who we are as a family,'" Maniotes noted.